The BJP might have chosen Sarbananda Sonowal as its face in Assam but as far as the Congress is concerned, its prime target remains Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, whose attacks have been the loudest, has mocked his former aide for touching the feet of central BJP leaders, accused him of dirty politics and called him the former “errand boy of then chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. He has also been accusing Himanta of corruption. Gogoi has said Himanta’s name (as then Congress minister) had allegedly figured in the Saradha and Louis Berger scandals, and asked how Sarma became so rich as a minister. Some Congress leaders have made references to TADA cases that were once lodged against Sarma. Congress minister Rakibul Hussain has raised also the 1991 murder of Manabendra Sarma, a senior Congress leader, and wanted to know if Himanta wanted a CBI probe into it.
Himanta, for his part, has dared the Congress to prove those charges. Himanta, who was chiefly responsible for the Congress’s victory in three successive assembly elections — 2001, 2006 and 2011 — took with him not only nine more legislators, but also thousands of supporters into the BJP. Though he is a fresh entrant, the BJP has already made him convener of its state poll panel, thus giving him the No. 2 status.
Gogoi has ridiculed Himanta as well as Sonowal for touching the feet of national leaders. “We in the Congress don’t touch the feet of our leaders. Leaders like B P Chaliha, Bishnuram Medhi, Sarat Chandra Sinha and Hiteswar Saikia had never touched the feet of our national leaders. What can these BJP leaders who fall at the feet of their national leaders do for Assam?” Gogoi has been saying at his rallies in the past couple of weeks.
“Himanta is an expert in dirty politics,” Gogoi recently said. “When he was a minister he kept me mesmerised in such a manner that I used to rebuke those who came to me with complaints against him. Gogoi has been distributing a letter in which Himanta had expressed his gratitude to the chief minister. He recently also said Himanta was once an “errand boy” of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.
On another occasion, Gogoi alleged that Himanta had amassed a lot of property when he became a minister. “He became rich when he became a minister. He also launched a TV channel. Where did he get the money?” Gogoi said.
Himanta countered, “I will be only too glad if Gogoi can tell the court of law what cases are pending against me.” He said the Congress is now sure it will not be able to win the ensuing elections. “I know the Congress inside out because I was the main campaign manager and strategist in the last several elections. Now that I am in the BJP, and because I have brought with me thousands of Congress supporters, the Congress cannot afford not to target me. “